Moments of surprise and discovery are what keep me coming back to the kitchen time and time again. I have been cooking for over twenty years – first as a child for my family, then as a young adult for my friends, and ultimately professionally for people’s parties and events. Somehow the cooking never gets old. I never get weary of dreaming up new dishes, experimenting in the kitchen, making food by hand and feeding people. All of this feeds my deep, insatiable sense of curiosity. Knowing that there are always new discoveries to be made just around the corner in the kitchen (and in life) makes me happy.
Take these charred lemon slices, for instance. They are a revelation. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a lemon nut. I will find a way to sneak in lemon (or some other citrus) in nearly every dish. Melanie (my business partner) and I have often joked that we need a Simple Gourmet lemon tree. I think we need something closer to a small grove. How do I love lemons? Let me count the ways…..Their juice is tart and adds just the right hit of bright acidity to any dish. Their skins are deeply fragrant and aromatic….every single time I zest a lemon I smile when I see the essential oils spray a fine mist into the air. They somehow embody sunshine. And I love sunshine.
So one day, when I pulled a freshly roasted chicken from the oven and saw that the bed of lemon slices I had placed it on were now a sticky mix of charred and soft lemony bits, I had an idea. These bits of lemon gold needed to become a sauce. After a bit of testing and tweaking I came up with this Charred Lemon Vinaigrette that is all-at-once tart and sweet and smoky and ridiculously delicious. I do not exaggerate when I say that I have had it on everything from salad, to roast chicken to vanilla ice cream. (But then again I think just about everything is a good topping for a scoop of Hagen Daas vanilla ice cream.)
Most recently I made a quick salad of summer veggies and doused it in this vinaigrette. Simple. Summery. Lemony. Delicious.
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon minced shallots
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed
- 1 pound heirloom tomatoes, any variety
- 1/4 cup sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup torn mint leaves
- Maldon salt, for sprinkling
- Heat a skillet over high heat and drizzle with olive oil. Add the lemon slices. Cook until they begin to char on one side then flip and cook briefly on the other side. Remove and place into a blender. (NOTE: Use a spatula to handle the cooked lemon slices – the lemon flesh will start to fall apart and you want to catch all the lemony bits you can.)
- Add the vinegar, honey, shallots, olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
- Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil and have a bowl of ice water standing by. Add a large pinch of salt. Dump in the beans, cook for 3-4 minutes and remove into the ice water. Let cool completely, then drain and pat very dry. Toss the beans with a bit of the dressing and arrange on a platter.
- Cut the tomatoes into slices or chunks and arrange on the platter with the beans. Add the onions. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the mint and Maldon Salt.